Can Nationals snap back from stretch fade in time to earn NL wild card?

ST. LOUIS -- The Washington Nationals have dealt with plenty of adversity in the calendar year of 2019. It's kind of the story of their campaign: overcoming the loss of a franchise icon and a giant, early-season hole they dug for themselves to return to October baseball. But they have not reserved a spot in the playoffs yet, and if things keep going the way they are, adversity might come back to win this one.

Let's start with the reasons for these alarm bells. First, there was Monday's result, a 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the opener of a key three-game series between teams battling to secure one of the five precious playoff slots in the National League, in which, at the moment, we can be sure to find only the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves.

The second alarm prompter: Stephen Strasburg got into early trouble, went only five innings and ultimately took a no-decision. The righty strikeout king, enjoying a Cy Young-caliber season, was the first of three Washington aces lined up to face the Cardinals coming into the series. Patrick Corbin will take the hill on Tuesday and St. Louis native Max Scherzer on Wednesday. But now, dreams of a huge road sweep on the shoulders of that trio have already been dashed.